When considering a negotiation situation, one must know some things themselves and the other party as a basis for preparation.
- Know your triggers. What kinds of behaviors (yours and others’) in conflict situations prompts you react in ways that aren’t necessarily productive? What can you do to change how your respond? How do you react to someone who is likely to take a hardline or an absolute position? What causes you to take a rigid position and what are the accompanying behaviors (productive and non-productive) that you could change?
- Know your biases. Are you so angry at the other party that no matter what they said you’d disagree? How well do you “read” the responses (physical and verbal) of others during difficult conversations? Do you understand how your dislike for or anger toward another person can create “noise” that unnecessarily complicates negotiation situations?
- Know your potential for “stuck”. Are you already stuck in a position that you will not consider abandoning, even if a fair compromise was presented? Do you know how to move conversations forward using a variety of communication strategies to avoid impasse? Do you truly want a resolution or is there an underlying motivation in play?
- Know your fears. What scares you about negotiating with the other party? Are your fears realistic and/or experiential or are they more oppressive than they need to be (e.g., the monster under the bed)?
- Know your style. Are you competitive, accommodating, avoidant, compromising, or collaborative? What steps could you take to change your negotiation style? Do you use different negotiation styles depending upon the situation and the parties involved? What styles have worked/not worked?
- Know your triggers. What makes you angry, sad, happy, confused, fearful, or anxious? How have you reacted in similar situations in the past? What would you change?
- Know your reality. What do you want and/or need? What do you think is reasonable? Do your expectations align with probable outcomes or are unrealistic hopes a source of barriers to resolution that can be mutually agreeable? Do you want to preserve the relationship with the other party subsequent to the negotiation or are you willing to accept that the relationship could become a casualty as a result or your efforts to get what you want?
- Know your mind. Do you think well during stressful moments or do you freeze? What behaviors (yours and others) produce [cognitive] reactions of shock or confusion? Do you have the ability to physically and psychologically manage your fight or flight response? Do you know enough about the issues at hand and the other party to effectively and knowledgeably navigate toward a solution?
- Know your environment. What environment(s) have you experienced that has been productive in terms of facilitating positive outcomes in negotiation? If you could choose an optimal environment, what would that look like? What effect do noise and other distractions have on your ability to stay focused during negotiations?
- Know your responses. What do your body language and physiological responses look like in situations where you are stressed, scared, happy, sad, or anxious? Do you use paralinguistic communication effectively or counterproductively? What do those responses communicate to others? What would an optimal situation look like in terms of your physical communication during negotiation?
- Know your health. Do you sleep well on a regular basis? Is your diet supportive of a strong mind? Is your mental status well-adjusted enough to support you in a difficult negotiation situation?
- Know your words. How well do you communicate? Do you know how to use conflict-reducing and trust-inducing language? Do you know how to leverage the rate and tone of your voice (e.g., neurolinguistic programming or NLP) to convey control when stressed? Do you regularly express yourself in ways that are clear and unambiguous?
Knowing these things about yourself is useful in a contentious negotiation circumstance as well as in all types of interactions. Moreover, knowing these things about the other party – to the extent possible – is essential.
In my situation, I know what I will no longer accept in terms of how I am being treated. I am becoming better at establishing boundaries and acting upon incursions of those boundaries when pushed. I know that I have enough patience to manage my behavior in ways that are productive, but I also know that when H – or anyone else for that matter – becomes so deeply rooted in an absolute position (i.e., “this is my bottom line”) – I can do nothing to change their mind. I can only change my own mind. Anticipating outcomes based upon what we know helps us to prepare for scenarios and to react more productively in the process.
CAUTION: Knowing should never be based upon assumptions. Assumptions are deadly in all types of relationships. We can predict based upon experiences, but we can never define another’s reality or accurately presume to know what someone else thinks, feels, or believes. Careful communication becomes important when walking the line between knowing and assuming. It’s best to never assume. Hypotheses are grounded in some form of knowing. Assumptions are based upon projection and false perceptions.
I know one of my triggers is when I feel someone is projecting their feelings or assumptions onto me. It drives me crazy! I typically react with anger – zero to sixty – and most often I disengage to avoid damaging the process and the relationship. I am trying to learn to stay put and manage my physiological reactions to such things and this seems to work best when I am tired and not wound up. In extremes though, being tired does not facilitate cognitive processing for me so I know that those types of factors directly affect my ability to remain calm and engaged during contentious conversations and/or negotiations. When I am compromised in one or several of the ways above, I have to be more careful and patient and ensure I am handling the process with calm and respect for myself and the other party.
I also know that I am very good at changing the momentum in conflict situations unless I am deeply rooted in what I “want” from an emotional perspective. I have found that allowing others to self-destruct by letting them blabber away and run off like the proverbial chicken with no head is a fantastic way for me to conserve my energy and maintain my self-respect. In this way, I know I don’t have to descend to toddler-like behavior to get what I want. I just have to be patient and calm and conduct myself in ways that do aren’t karmically damaging. if I can achieve momentum control then I know that I stand a better chance of getting what I want, as well as the fact that there is a greatly likelihood for a mutually agreeable outcome.
Momentum control also facilitates my constant awareness that I have choices in the situation. I can then decide which of those options, given the dynamics at hand, are preferable and act accordingly. Momentum control also provides for clearing away positions to evaluate the interests of all concerned.
So once you know, then what? Part 3 discusses the next step, which is to expand upon what you know in the form of issue identification.
- Creating a Psychological Advantage (kevinchau.org)
- Momentum (opechnenko.wordpress.com)
- Beliefs and Momentum (evolvingape.net)